Children coming to Australia have a lot to get used to - a new home, school, language, culture and people. Parents can help children adapt to the changes and settle into their new life.
What parents can do
Parents play an important role in guiding and supporting children. They can help them:
- feel loved and safe
- go to school, learn and make friends
- discover places and activities they enjoy
- be involved in the community
- talk about any worries or problems
- get help if they need it.
Some children have experienced hardship or violence, or lost people or places they love. They can feel grief and loss just as adults do, even if they can't tell you about it. The good news is that children of all ages usually adapt, learn and do well in Australia.
Feeling loved and safe helps children adapt to their new life.
When children feel safe it is easier for them to cope with change.
Some things that might help are to:
- keep children's lives as calm as you can
- continue with things they know and enjoy, such as food, stories, songs
- have daily routines such as the same mealtimes, bedtimes
- stay in touch with loved ones overseas, if you can
- explore the local community with your children so they get to know it
- protect young children from knowing too much about adult problems.
Making friends and being involved in the community can help children feel accepted and that they belong.
Going to school
Going to school is a big part of getting used to Australian life.
- go to playgroups, child care and preschools from a young age
- learn English
- start or continue their education
- make friends
- be involved in sports or other activities they enjoy such as music, art, dance. They may like to join a group
- get help if they have a disability or other concern.
Schools are great places for parents to meet other families and share ideas. Parents are welcome to talk with teachers, even if there is no problem.
Problems with feelings
If children are upset or 'misbehaving' try to understand what's causing it.
- listen patiently
- show you really understand
- help children name their feelings - are they sad, worried, angry?
- ask children what would help them. This builds their confidence and skills
- get any help they need.
If children seem upset, worried or angry, ask if they are OK.
Stress and trauma
Children of all ages can be affected by events that made them feel unsafe, scared, worried, angry or helpless. It may be war, violence, hardship, losing loved ones or having many big changes in their life.
Signs of stress in children can be:
- wetting the bed
- often feeling upset, worried or sick, having headaches or stomach aches
- becoming very quiet - not wanting to see family or friends
- becoming angry or fighting a lot
- taking more risks. Older children might use alcohol or drugs.
There may be other reasons for these, so try to find out why they are happening.
Children need to experience over and over again:
- feeling loved and safe
- being comforted and soothed
- knowing others understand how they feel.
If you are worried about your child, you could talk with doctors, teachers or other services. Multicultural services can often help you find what you need.
It can help children to have other trusted adults to talk to.